The basic premise of this system is two 'towers' attatched to a reverse flow UGF and a power filter with special filter inserts. The system is rated for up to 55 gallons.
I chose to set it up on a 29 gallon tank I was starting at the top of my "shelf o' tanks". Not having to do water changes in a tank which could only be accessed with a chair or ladder seemed like a pretty good concept to me. When this tank is fully set up, I intend on stocking it with three C. Lorteti's- the male I currently have (no, I did not name him) and 2 females which I'm currently trying to track down.
The filter plates require a substrate which is at least 1/4 inch wide. Unfortunately, that meant I couldn't go with my usual play sand, but that's how it is with most UGF's. I wanted a light substrate, as I've noticed my lorteti's color tends to go very dark with his current black substrate. I also wanted to use a planted tank substrate, as live plants are strongly recommended for use with the system. I decided to go for a bottom layer of flourite with some standard mixed river gravel over it.
The clips that assemble together the filter plates stink. They don't snap in exactly, you just sorta jam them in and hope they stay. They also aren't designed to hold together under and sort of torque.
One completed filter plate:
Assembled UGF in tank:
Phew, ok. Once I got through that bit, it seemed like smooth flying. I put the tank on the shelf, popped the power filter on the side and ran my python across the house to fill the tank. The plates mean the gravel can't be as deep as I like it to be without taking up too much space in the tank. It made aquascaping tricky, as I couldn't put rocks and such in very deep in the gravel. Oh well, save the decorating for later.
The tank in place:
At this point I was reading through the FAQ and saw that there were supposed to be two tubes of airline coming out of the towers? Huh? The directions said nothing about this. I saw the two tubes of airline, but they weren't attatched to anything. Crud. I drained the tank 1/2 way to access the towers and couldn't fiqure out how to put the tubes in. I called their customer service and got voicemail (fair enough, it was a sunday night). I tried just sticking the tubes in the holes where they appeared to go. Whatever, I guess that will do for now.
I wandered off to eat dinner and when I came back an hour or so later, I found about 5 gallons had been siphoned onto my floor via the mystery tubes. Looovely. The filter kit came with two optional anti-siphon valves to "run the system silently" so I decided to just throw them on to prevent another accident like that.
Next I was supposed to add the two "magic" ingredients. VitaMagic, the aquarium stress reliver is just a clear, unscnented liquid. The ingredients say "Botanic Extracts, High Quality Vitamins and Trace Elements". It's supposed to enhance slime coat, boost immunity etc.
BioMagic is the nitrogen cycle booster. My god. It is the rankest smelling thing I have ever put in an aquarium. I got some on my hands and walked around for hours afterwards trying to fiqure out why they smelled like rotton yeast and death. It's a powder which is made up of protein, fat, yeast and some other stuff. Actually, I just brought it over to read the bottle, and the smell is making me sick even though it's closed.
The stinky stuff just added to my tank:
Actually, it dissolved rather quickly. Plus, the tank has no offensive smells coming off it. Thank goodness, hopefully it'll work!
The tank, all lit up:
I threw in a few plants that had come uprooted and therefore weren't doing too well in my main tank. Again, planting was tricky as I didn't have much gravel to work with. I've got a 65watt CF coralife aqualight (freshwater) over it, so it has plenty of good light. The plants should spring right back.
The jury is still out on this. Hopefully I'll get the mystery airline tubing worked out and then I'll be able to see how the the filter performs, which is the *real* test of the system.
I leave you with this, the image of my guest room, which has someone coming to stay on thursday. Hmm, I guess I have some cleanup from my project? If only I could train that rabbit to tidy up...